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College Football – "The Immaculate Footception" Will Live Forever in Washington Husky Lore – Part 2
(Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a story about a college football team’s life in just two games of the season—one of intense heartache, the other of sheer joy. The team this season was the University of Washington, and events unfolded out of Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities.” (Brought to mind. Here’s what really happened and when.)
As disappointing as Washington’s loss was to Notre Dame, what was to come was more than the Huskies ever expected or imagined. It will live forever in the annals of Washington Husky football lore.
With their season record now at 2-3, the Huskies will return to their home field in Washington and await the arrival of the Arizona Wildcats with a sparkling 3-1 record that includes wins over Central Michigan and Northern Arizona at home and Oregon State on the road. . Their only loss came in another away game to the 12th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes by 10 points.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops (brother of Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops) compiled an 8-5 mark in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl win over Brigham Young. The Wildcats had finally gotten some national notice, and weren’t eager to take a step back.
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian was the quarterback for Brigham Young in 1995, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 regular season, a 19-15 win over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl and the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. His BYU team became the first in NCAA history to win 14 games in a season. Sarkisian’s 162.0 career passer efficiency rating is 3rd all-time in the NCAA.
“Sarc” needed to convince his players to keep playing hard and believe that Notre Dame was just a blip in the curtain on their march to success.
During the game, the Huskies looked willing but not always capable. Arizona moved the ball at will, piled up 461 yards of offense and successfully threw enough “bubble” passes to start a bubblegum manufacturing company.
Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles made a career of taking the ball up the middle, sliding back and rocketing wide out to the line of scrimmage. Arizona receivers responded by churning for short yardage before defenders could step up and tackle and stop long gains.
Arizona had exposed the Huskies’ weakness and was exploiting it like a trader with an inside stock tip. Washington currently lacks the talent to play receivers one-on-one, so they must play from the line of scrimmage to avoid getting beat deep and giving up long-yardage plays.
Foles would go 39-of-53 for 384 yards and a touchdown before the night was over, leaving Arizona with a grand total of just 77 yards on 30 carries.
The Wildcats had built a 33-21 lead with less than 3 minutes to play and Washington appeared to be floating in the water. But, then again, this wasn’t last year’s 0-12 Huskies team.
Washington’s offensive 11 was still playing hard and believing when a scrambling Jake Locker caught Kavrio Middleton in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard TD strike to bring the Huskies within 5 at 33-28 with 2:55 left.
Sark then did what most coaches wouldn’t do, electing to pass to the Wildcats instead of taking an onside kick and immediate possession of the ball. That’s what your defensive coordinator—Nick “The Wild Man” Holt—and his leanings say, trust, but don’t break the bank.
The Huskies were hit again and again on quick wideout bubble passes all night. You can hardly blame the Arizona coaching staff for not calling the play again; Conventional wisdom says that you call a play that is working until the defense can stop you.
So once again Nick Foles threw a pass to DeLaShon Dean but Foles’ pass was short and behind the receiver, who fell to the turf trying to catch the pigskin. Linebacker Mason Foster intentionally ran over the play on the defensive end, and words are a poor choice for what happened next.
Foster’s aggressiveness pushed Foles to the limit and his pass bounced off the receiver’s feet and into the air where Foster briefly dodged and then turned around untouched for a 37-yard interception and return touchdown to put the Huskies up 34. -33 with 2:37 left to play.
The Washington faithful, who had come alive when the Huskies scored earlier in the game, were now giddy with frenzied excitement. And the players? Well, let’s just say the reaction was overwhelming. And the coach? Maybe hysterical, happy and over the top believing that the Huskies can and will win by playing hard, playing right and having fun.
There were no discernible priests at that moment, and the legendary “Touchdown Jesus” image seen from Notre Dame Stadium had not been transported from Notre Dame to Husky Stadium for the game, but a miracle of the football gods had taken place before our eyes. . They had had enough of Arizona’s bubble passes and it was time for redemption.
Call it luck, the bounce of the ball or what I do- “The Immaculate Footception”, a bit clumsy in expression but very accurate. Whatever you call it, it will live on in Washington football history for years to come. If the Huskies qualify and win a bowl game this year, cheers and Mason Foster will be enshrined in legend.
Sark went for the 2-point conversion and Jake Locker connected with sophomore wide receiver (and budding star) Jermaine Kearse to put Washington up 36-33.
Mason Foster had a wonderful night with 11 tackles, a pair of key stops on Arizona’s final drive, and an interception and a moment of glory that will take at least a lifetime to forget and a million years to exactly duplicate.
Washington’s miraculous play brought back great memories of “The Immaculate Reception” during the 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. Late in the game, Pittsburgh’s receiver was hit hard as he tried to make a catch, the ball deflected and before it hit the ground Franco Harris caught it, scooped it up in the air and then ran. The touchdown that won the game for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh struggled for 4 decades to win a playoff game and The Immaculate Reception—which NFL Films called the greatest play of all time—led the Steelers to 4 Super Bowls before the end of the decade.
The frosting on the cake came when Arizona had one last chance to win.
The Huskies defensive line, which hadn’t done much all night, came alive as its best pass rusher, Daniel Teo-Nesheim, got in touch with his Samoan roots and sacked Nick Foles on a critical play. On the next play, true freshman cornerback (and future NFL player) Desmond Trufant intercepted a Foles pass with 36 seconds left to give the Dogs a potential 36-33 victory.
Trust me when I say that University of Washington football and Huskies madness is on the rise. Look for a lot of lost dogs to return to Husky Stadium in the next few home games.
Husky fans in the Great Pacific Northwest aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid as the expression goes, they’re savoring the sweet taste of success. Even the football gods are so pleased that they’ve decided to order a cable hook-up with hi-def.
(Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 2-part series.)
Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley
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